Context: The second phase of Bihar’s caste-based census will be commencing from April 15.
Background: Caste Census in Bihar
- The process of caste-based census started in Bihar from January 7, 2023, which will be conducted in two phases. The responsibility has been given to the General Administration Department (GAD) of the government.
- Apart from government employees, Anganwadi workers and Jeevika Didis will be participating in conducting the caste surveys.
- First phase:
- The first phase of the survey began on January 7, 2023, and ended on January 21. The number of all households in the Bihar were counted and recorded in the first phase.
- It recorded the name of the head of the family and the number of members living in the household.
- Second phase:
- Data: Data collected in the first phase will be used in second phase calculations. The first phase data will be available to the enumerators and supervisors at the time of second phase.
- Information sought: Data such as people living in the households, their castes, sub-castes, socio-economic conditions etc. will be collected in the second phase.
- Socio-economic indicators used: The socio-economic indicators include educational qualification, nature/status of employment, vehicle ownership, land ownership (agricultural and residential), computer usage, housing status, temporary migration status, and monthly income.
- Mandatory information: All the questions asked are mandatory but filling one’s Aadhaar number and ration card number are optional. The survey will also record names of people living outside the state.
- Bijaga App: Bijaga (Bihar Jaati Adharit Ganana) app is used in the second phase, which contains 17 columns and a list of 214 caste names.
- Double verifications: The survey information needs to be collected on both the mobile app and physical forms. This will help in cross-verification of the data.
What is Caste Census?
- Caste census is the practice of conducting caste-wise tabulation of India’s population. It was last included in the Indian Census in 1931.
- Every census conducted in independent India included information on SC/STs but, enumerators do not collect data on other castes.
- Importance of Caste census:
- Equitable representation: Caste census gives idea about population of each caste, which allows for providing them reservation based on their strength.
- Identifying marginalized groups: Caste census allows collection of socio-economic status along with their caste. This helps identify marginalized caste groups.
- Policy-making tool: Caste census provides the necessary information that government needs while taking measures for upliftment of a particular community, especially welfare schemes.
- Sub-categorization of quota: The data from caste census can be used in sub-categorization of existing reservation quotas in education and jobs.
- Bursting myths: Caste census will burst the myths about numerary strengths of particular caste group, allowing the government to avoid placating them.
- Concerns about caste census:
- Data integrity: In many caste surveys, officials do not insist on any kind of documents to verify their claims. Statisticians feel that this move would cast doubts on the integrity of the collected data.
- Conflicts between castes: Data from caste census has the capability to create conflict between castes as members may demand for higher quota in reservation.
- Politicization: The whole process has the potential to become highly politicized as political parties may use the data for their electoral gains.
- Demand for inclusion in caste categories: Castes currently outside reserved pool may demand for their inclusion in those categories. This may start a never-ending cycle of demands from various castes.
- Data integration: The data collected from SECC could be integrated with other data to arrive at a better picture regarding status of various castes.
- Modern data analysis: Data collected from various sources could be analyzed using latest data analytical tools before arriving at a conclusion.
- This information could be then validated by domain experts in various States.
Caste Census in India
- Caste census in India began in 1871 during the colonial rule. However, the practice was discontinued after the 1931 Census.
- The Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) 2011 was the first such caste census after the 1931.
- The SECC was not conducted under the 1948 Census of India Act as the disclosure of information was not mandatory.
- Government’s position:
- Data accuracy: The Union governments have categorically stated that data collected through caste census are not completely accurate, making them unsuitable for use in policymaking.
- Administrative difficulty: Adding caste data in census process will further create complexities in census process. This is another reason for its non-inclusion.